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Social Activism Meets Arts, Meets Colgate

This past Wednesday, Colgate was lucky enough to welcome social activist artist, Grayson Earle, to present a lecture and introduce the new exhibit in the Clifford Gallery, The Illuminator at Colgate. Earle is a participant of The Illuminator Collective, which is an art-activist cooperative based in New York City. Through the use of staged and temporary projection-interventions, their aim is to “transform the street from a space of passive consumption and transit into a site of engagement, conflict, and dialogue.” With the use of a van and a projector secured on top, this group confronts some of the many crises in the world in hopes that it incites and invites further participation from the public. 

Earle shared a handful of projects The Illuminative Collective has engaged in in the recent past. For example, when 5 Pointz, a mural space in Queens, New York City that was on its way to being regarded as a cultural landmark, was painted over, The Illuminative Collective helped people project new artwork on the walls as a form of retaliation. To do so, they simply had participants create their messages within a milk cart with a particular lighting setting, record and transmit the artwork, and project the final product to fill the large white spaces. 

Another example of the work from The Illuminative Collective was a response to the incident involving the Edward Snowden placed in Fort Greene Park in Brooklyn, New York City. For those who do not recall, Edward Snowden triggered a controversial case in the U.S. when he leaked confidential information from the NSA to the press. His actions were received in duality; although he violated the Espionage Act of 1917, he also uncovered the repression of civil liberties. Those who supported his bold acts created a bust of him, but it was almost instantly removed from the park. When it was taken down, the Illuminative Collective projected an image of the bust in the exact place it was originally standing.

The Illuminative Collected has participated in numerous other technologically artistic demonstrations, but they have also helped create online outlets to voice discontent with the entrenched powers of America. One such example is an online game called “Tax Evaders.” Here—gamers can shoot down the alien “bad guys” who take the form of companies that do not have to pay taxes. As players successfully hit their targets, money from these companies trickles down. A similar game is “Launch a Banker,” which allows players to virtually launch a banker and aim to have him land in a jail cell. While these games seem silly at a glace, there is deep-rooted sentiment behind their creation that encourages “the hero that lies within all of us… to rise up in a broad-based popular movement to challenge entrenched power and initiate the radical political, social, and economic transformations that this critical moment demands.”

Their exhibit that they have kindly brought to Colgate involves community participation as well. Students who visit the Clifford Gallery can write a political message or statement on a piece of paper, scan it, and seconds later watch a virtual person carry their words on a picket sign. These simulated protestors continue to walk in a loop that grows as more and more people add their voices. I encourage students, professors and other community members to check out this creative use of art activism and the other featured displays about The Illuminative Collective. 

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